The ninth annual California Green Innovation Index—released by the nonpartisan nonprofit group Next 10 and prepared by Beacon Economics—finds that the state’s ambitious climate policies have allowed for considerable economic growth, with California outpacing the growth of other states during the recovery period following the Great Recession. Between 2006 and 2015, California’s GDP per capita grew by almost $5,000 per person, nearly double the growth experienced by the US as a whole. At the same time, per capita emissions in the state decreased by 12%. Job growth between 2006 and 2015 in California outpaced rates experienced prior to 2006, and outpaced total US employment gains by 27%.
However, although the state has made considerable progress decoupling economic growth from greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the rate of emissions decline appears to be slowing, due in part to a spike in transportation emissions attributed to an increase from light-duty vehicles. On an absolute basis, California’s total GHG emissions fell only slightly in 2015, down 0.34% from 2014. This compares to a 0.73% reduction in the previous year and sharper falls in years before.
If current rates of decline continue through 2020, the state will need to reduce emissions at a rate of 4.97% each year in the decade between 2020 and 2030, and produce even steeper declines in the period from 2030 to 2050, if it is to meet current climate goals. . . .The state has become the most energy-productive major economy in the world, moving up three spots from 2013 to 2014, while also reducing its carbon intensity by 4.5%
"California policies have allowed the state to generate more economic growth while producing fewer emissions. In 2014, every $10,000 of economic activity in California resulted in 55% fewer CO2 emissions than $10,000 of economic activity yielded in the rest of the nation."
—Adam Fowler, economist at Beacon Economics
Transportation. The transportation sector remains the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the state, responsible for 38.5% of emissions and overshadowing all other areas of the economy. In 2015, total transportation-related GHG emissions rose by 2.7%, largely due to an increase of 3.1% in emissions from on-road vehicles. According to the report, it appears that emissions from light-duty vehicles accounted for the entire increase in GHG emissions
As gasoline prices fell starting in late 2014, motorists logged an additional 2.7 billion vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in 2015, with a concomitant increase in gasoline consumption. While the %age increase in VMT was roughly in pace with population increase, as the cost of driving went down it appears some people abandoned public transportation for driving. Both rail and bus emissions decreased during this time, due in part to the state’s efforts to transition to cleaner fuels and to electrify public transportation
This increase resulting from a strong economy and lower gas prices is combined with a housing crisis that has led to longer commutes. .
Commute times in California increased 2.8% between 2014 and 2015, while at the same time, the state experienced a 4.8% decrease in public transportation trips. . . .
Other transportation-related findings include:
As of the end of 2016, about half of all zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) ever sold in the US were bought in California. In the first quarter of 2017, ZEVs accounted for nearly 5% of the state’s auto sales.
In 2015, there were 172,895 ZEVs registered in California, up 45.5% from 2014. Over the same time period, traditional gasoline vehicle registration increased 1.7%.
The state’s charging infrastructure lags badly. At the time of publication, California has only 0.05 public charging outlets per ZEV, placing it ahead of only New Jersey and Alaska for availability of infrastructure.
Other highlights of this year’s Green Innovation Index include:
2016, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in the US were 12.5% below their 2006 levels. The decade-long nationwide slide in emissions from power production reflects the electric power sector shifting away from coal and toward less carbon-intensive fuels.
California’s electric-power sector was responsible for 19.1% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2015, down 0.9% from 2014.
In California, per capita electricity consumption decreased 2.3% from 2014 to 2015. In the rest of the U.S., it decreased 1.8%.
In 2015, California increased renewable electricity to 21.9% of total electricity generation, up 1.8% from the year before. California’s renewable generation increased 8.3% from the year before, with solar jumping 40.3% and small hydro dropping 6.1% due to the drought. Wind generated 37% of the state’s renewable electricity, and for the first time, solar (27%) overtook geothermal (20%) as the second-largest source of renewable generation. The state needs to increase renewable generation by 24% between 2017 to 2020. Effective grid management to incorporate this level of renewables remains a key challenge for the state.
China remained the largest greenhouse gas emitter in 2014, followed by the U.S. and the European Union. When treated as a country, California moved up two places in comparison to the 49 nations with greatest greenhouse gas emissions, surpassing France and Italy to become the 18th largest emitter.
California maintained top rankings as one of the least carbon-intensive emitters (2nd to France) and one of the highest shares of electricity from renewable energy sources (6th highest). . . .